A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday began its review of Japan‘s plan to begin releasing more than one million tons of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear planta revision that Japan hopes will instill confidence in the plan.
The 15-member team will visit the Fukushima plant on Tuesday and meet government and utility officials during their five-day mission.
The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings announced plans last year to begin gradually releasing the still-contaminated water in spring 2023 after further treatment and dilution.
The water is stored in some 1,000 tanks at the damaged plant, which authorities say must be removed so that the reactors can be decommissioned. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tons by the end of this year.
A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing three reactors to melt down and releasing large amounts of radiation. Water used since the accident to cool highly radioactive damaged reactor cores a lot has leaked since then.
Fishermen, local residents and Japan’s neighbors, including China and South Korea, have fiercely opposed the release of the water into the sea. Fukushima residents fear that the reputation of their agricultural and fishery products will be further damaged.
Japan sought the assistance of the IAEA to ensure that the release complies with international safety standards and to gain understanding from other countries.
Gustavo Caruso, director of the IAEA’s Office for Safety and Security Coordination, said Monday that the mission “in an objective, credible and science-based manner will help send messages of transparency and trust to the people of Japan and beyond.” .
The team will review details of the water, discharge safety, sampling methods and environmental impact, it said. The external experts of this IAEA mission to Japan are from Argentina, China, France, South Korea, Russia, the United States, Vietnam and the United Kingdom, in the absence of two members from Australia and Canada who, due to travel restrictions due to of covid-19 have not been able to appear.
Officials say that all isotopes selected for treatment in contaminated water can be reduced to low levels except tritium, which is inseparable from water but harmless in small amounts. They say that a gradual release of the water, diluted with seawater, into the ocean over decades is safe.
Keiichi Yumoto, who is leading the response to the Fukushima accident at the industry ministry, noted concerns about the project’s safety, saying it is “very important” to have reviews by the IAEA to “encourage public understanding.”
Junichi Matsumoto, TEPCO director in charge of treated water management, said that the utility company prioritizes safety and the impact on the reputation of the region.
“Ensuring transparency and objectivity is crucial to the project,” said Matsumoto, who attended a meeting Monday with IAEA and government officials. “We hope to further improve the objectivity and transparency of the process based on the review.”
Japan and the IAEA have agreed to compile an interim report on the review later this year.
(with information from AP and EFE)
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